This week we got a call from a family member explaining that Tina’s Aunt Shirley passed away. She was 76.
In typical Chicago fashion,we called her Aunt Shirley, but she wasn’t a direct aunt. She was Tina’s grandpa’s brother’s wife.
Tina’s aunt was a special person to both of us, but especially to Tina. When Tina’s mom died back in the 90s, Aunt Shirley reached out and helped Tina in ways that she’ll always hold fondly.
I met Aunt Shirley years ago, and she immediately took a liking to me. Aunt Shirley was the woman who kisses you on the mouth when you see her and when you leave. And maybe even a few times in between. It’s not creepy. It’s an affection that you welcome, and kind of grow accustomed to.
About a month ago, Aunt Shirley received an award for her volunteer service. She was a tireless devotee to helping people in the hospital and being there for those in need.
One of my fondest memories of Aunt Shirley was a discussion we had about religion. She’s one of the first people I knew who had a more open mind about God, Jesus, Buddha, other religions and the universe.
Like Tina — and probably thanks to Aunt Shirley’s influence — Shirley wasn’t a firm-fisted, orthodox Christian. When I was growing up, that kind of “Christian” scared me. More or less, I was taught to think that way.
But with a more open mind, I have become somewhat attracted to the Christian who isn’t bound by dogma and doctrine. It’s not because I believe I want to become that. But it’s that I envy that some people are able to live within a perimeter of some form of Christianity without being offensive with their rock-hard, unwavering, hypocritical faith.
You could have a conversation and avoid that Cringe Phenomenon.
It was not a mystery that I loved Aunt Shirley, too. And I couldn’t hold back emotion when I stood at her casket and remember how cool and influential she was on little old me.
Wanting a secular funeral
The funeral included a full Catholic mass delivered or led by a priest who didn’t seem to know or care about who Aunt Shirley was. Just to give you an idea of how popular she was, the church was at least over half full. There was a Daley in the audience.
The priest seemed disenchanted by her, by us as mourners. When he talked of her, it was as if he cared very little.
But that translated to a sort of disingenuous delivery of his lines about Jesus and God. In my mind, he didn’t believe a word that emitted from his mouth. And maybe he didn’t. But he is so entrenched in this “career”, that it’s too late. It’s all motions from here.
There’s one thing for certain, though, and that’s I want to write out my own funeral. And it’s going to be in a secular place, a museum or a laboratory for all I care. And people aren’t going to read scripture. They’re going to read my poetry. Or lines they wrote about me.
It’s going to be Emcee’d by a performer, possibly a comic. And if you miss me and you want to fucking cry about it through a nervous laughter of memories … than I want you to do that.
If you thought I was an asshole, let it go. Tell everyone. I’m not going to care. I’ll be dead.
But the point is that the funeral will be about me, you and all the people who are there. It’s not going to invite a supernatural rockstar with a penchant for jealousy and one-night stands who never showed up to any of my other events, so why would Jesus/God/Ruach YHWH show up to my flipping funeral?
Remind me to make some t-shirts soon with Jesus’s picture on them that read, “I am my own father.”
Being in church, with all the iconography and sculptures, is such a sharp contrast to the megachurches my parents go to. And in a way, I half-prefer the megachurch. The Catholic church, with its requisite hour-service of repeating lines and readings, it feels so empty and shallow. At least the mega-church is going after the market who requires oomph in their worship.
There’s an almost definitive power to rock and roll and flashing lights. It’s no wonder people confuse that for Jesus’s spirit entering a place.
At this Catholic church, there were scantily-clad images of a beautiful, chiseled, rock-hard abs Jesus getting the shit kicked out of him. He’s there hanging on the cross, giving the old ladies something hot to tittle their tattles and men some form of a body to model theirs after. All this from a group whose 10 commandments are clear about the use of imagery.
How anyone finds solace and meaning out of any church is beyond me, but the Catholic church is something else altogether. But people do, and I have to be open to that, right?
Anyway, we’re off to the suburbs and you should be doing something with your family today. Soak up this life. Shirley would haven’t wanted you to, and so do I.